AT 2022 – Day 24: 13 miles (279.8 miles total)

My body chose the usual 5am wake up time again this morning….why??? When I can sleep as long as I want to, do I continue to get up at 5am? It’s solid routine now. Asking questions won’t change that.

I was packed and ready to go by 6:30…an early start even by my standards, but we had a few mountains to climb, and the unanswered question of the Mahoosucs…will we or won’t we? Both challenges come at the end of the day, so we can only really know when we get there and see how much energy we have left.

I told Gormet that I wanted to go through both with her. You see the Mahoosuc Arm is one mile that drops 1,500 feet…nearly vertical in some areas. The Mahoosuc Notch is a gauntlet of massive boulders with gaps between that seem to have no bottom, water, ice, and who knows what else hides in the shadows. The Notch is the most difficult mile on the trail because it is like a giant jungle gym. Sometimes you have to take off your pack to squeeze through an opening, sometimes take a leap of faith over a chasm…having another hiker there for both features is a good idea, not just for safety reasons, but so you have someone you can complain with.


Check out the insanity

But first we had Baldplate Mountain to climb, and then Old Spec….well over 5,000′ of climbing before we got to either Mahoosuc.

I was feeling strong and worked my way quickly to the top of the mountain. Glorious views surrounded the mountain and I could see the infamous Mount Washington shrouded in clouds in the distance. Wow!



I took a fat chill up top (not to be confused with the hiker, Fat Chill) and luxuriate in the sunshine…although the wind was chilly enough that I put on my jacket. That’s a first! I have yet to put on my jacket during the day, it’s just been too hot and humid.

When Gormet comes up I follow her down off the mountain; we have to go up again before we go down (of course) and during the descent we stop at a shelter for water.

Then down down down to Grafton Notch where we ponder the meaning of “Notch.” We conclude it means pass. Out west the mountain passes are where roads can travel through the mountains, and the notches here seem to serve the same purpose.

Then I start the 3,500′ climb in 3.5 miles. Seriously?

The trail met a wooded junction 0.4 miles to the top of the mountain, but I passed it by. I’ve had plenty of views and don’t need to add 0.8 miles to the day.

Ok, we descend to Speck Pond where we have to make our decision: hike down the arm and camp? Hike down the arm and through the notch and then climb a mountain and camp? Or stay right were we were at the pond. It was 3pm. We chose the arm and camp.

Nobos came huffing and puffing up as we started down and we congratulated them…some were excited, some beaten down. The steep was as steep as some of the other crazy insane descents we have already encountered in Maine, but this was longer and steeper. We picked our way down, knees screaming at us the whole way.



We were just about to a camp spot when I pull over to let another hiker pass and he says, “Renee?”

What?!?! I look closer and before I can register the face under the red beard he says, “It’s Cargo.”



Cargo??? What are the chances??? Cargo is from Oregon and hiked the Oregon Desert Trail a few years ago, even stranger, after that I was in the Denver Airport one spring flying to the CDT kickoff in Silver City when Cargo walks up to me…he was starting the CDT that spring. How crazy! We have a history of meeting up randomly, and here we were on the Mahoosuc Arm, chatting it up. Cargo had started hiking in January from the tip of the Flordia Keys…and was just about done. We made plans to chat this fall when we are both home, he wants to talk trails, and so do I.

So I hiked on and almost around the corner I find Gormet at camp. What a relief. I am so ready to stop walking.

Dinner is ramen with a side of mashed potatoes.

AT 2022 – Day 23: 14.6 miles (266.8 total miles)

Despite having to climb down from my bunk a few times during the night, I got some decent sleep. The hostel was at full capacity, yet I didn’t hear any snoring.

Breakfast was blueberry pancakes (notice a theme here?), scrambled eggs, sausage, melon, a banana, potatoes, and oj. They would not accept any leftovers, so the hikers were encouraged to pack out all the remains. What a place!

Then we all piled into the vehicles for a ride back to the trail. Gormet, Fat Chill, and I started south from the South Arm road. Others were shuttled to B Hill Road, 10 miles south from there. The easy road access meant lots of folks will slack pack this section…meaning they will hike between the two roads with only a day pack, and will stay at the hostel another night on the other side. We were going farther than 10 miles, so had our full loads with four days of food…Gorham and New Hampshire were up next!!



Honey

The climb out of the road was a doozy, and then another…it was misty then rainy. Regardless the sweat poured out.

Up top I breaked at a shelter and met the other group from the hostel that was hiking north between roads. Lots more north bounders today overall. I’m happy with my choice to hike sobo; I’ve had some peaceful trail and camps…there really haven’t been too many people, which is great for such a popular trail. I just can’t imagine starting a nobo hike with hundreds of people all around going a similar mileage each day.


After a long stretch of trail (too long, I was bonking and should have stopped sooner) I came to a lovely waterfall. As I was relaxing the sky opened up and it poured. I popped open my umbrella…pleased I could use it at last. I really can’t hike and use the umbrella at the same time…I need both hands on the trekking poles, and it’s so warm out that I want the rain to wash the sweat away. I’ll still keep the umbrella though. Not sure why.

The next stretch of trail went up, but there was some pleasent tread where I could really stride out. The rain had stopped and the sunlight filtered through a glistening forest. It was quite lovely.

At some point you have to ask yourself, “Why am I doing this? Choosing such a demanding and strenuous trip on my time off?” That was this afternoon. When I take a step back and look objectively at the monumental task I had taken in this southbound hike, walking the hardest of the hard terrain, alone, for fun, I have to laugh. I know the reasons, but sometimes it just seems so absurd! I am weird, but then so are a lot of the others out here. I have company in my strange desires to struggle and sweat up these mountains. That’s nice.



Speaking of struggle, I meet John near the next shelter. John has been coming out for a week at a time for years to pick away at the trail. He started at Katahdin many trips ago. I can’t imagine hiking out here for a week, getting beaten up by the terrain, and then going home to do it all over again the next year. At least I have weeks of hiking and stamina built up to where I can do 15+ miles a day. He said he’ll retire next year and can start doing longer sections. Go John! The retirees out here are super inspirational. I will still be hiking when I’m in my 60s too. I have some good role models out here.

So to the shelter for the night: I pitch my tent (I sleep so much better on my own in a tent…the shelters can be busy)…where I set up, and make mac and cheese with tuna and extra Vermont sharp cheddar cheese chunks thrown in for good measure.

I look at the terrain ahead…oh wow! I’m already to the Mahoosuc Notch! The hardest mile on the entire AT. I could even hike it tomorrow if I wanted! I chat with Gormet, I think we will stop short of the notch tomorrow and leave the struggle for first thing in the morning the next day…and then the Maine miles will be done; the New Hampshire state line is just after that. Wow!

AT 2022 – Day 22: 12.4 miles (252.2 miles total)

I love sleeping with the sound of a river in the backgound…those are the best sleeps.

I wake before the others, and even with my long morning writing routine, am packed and ready to go before Gormet and Matt (Late Start??) stir.

I fill up on water because the water report is dim for the day, but people’s definitions of poor water is really skewed out here…or mine is after relying on desert sources for so long. I find tons of water, but I have so much on my back that I dont need it. Doh!

The climb is sweaty…they all are…and up top I turn on the phone and check weather. Ohhhh nooo. Heavy storms coming in tonight and tomorrow….high winds, heavy rains, lightening. I look at my options again. I could have hiked tomorrow and gone into the next resupply stop, Andover, or I could go in today. Looking at my options again, I decided to go into town today and stay the night at The Cabin, a well loved and long running hostel. When Gormet and Late Start come hiking up I share my intel, and they decide to go into town too. Who needs to hike in heavy rain and winds??…that can be down right treacherous with this hiking that is really class 3 scrambling.

I call the hostel and there is only room for two. You see the nobo bubble is approaching. The number of nobo hikers we pass has been increasing with every day, and the word on the street is things are going to get busy, especially at the hostels and hotels when the bulk of the nobo hikers hit the area.

Late Start makes other arrangements and we carry on. We now have 10 miles to hike to get our ride. Fortunately we are at the top of the biggest climb of the day…but these little climbs and descents can really do a number on your legs too. Maine is by far the hardest hiking I have ever done in my life, soon to be surpassed by New Hampshire hiking (I don’t remember specifics about the terrain from the 2002 hike, but these miles will be seared into my brain…probably cause I’m 20 years older now).

We book it, as much as we can. Breaks are short and the growing cloud cover reminds us of our mission.

We run into more sobos, Flower, Chaos, and Chef. They are fast.

From the top of Old Blue Mountain we call The Cabin again to arrange our shuttle (oh the things phones can do!) and go down about as steep a trail as we’ve encountered yet. Geez!



Sometimes there are steps when the rocks are too steep to walk.

At the road with minutes to spare we moan and groan about the state of our bodies. Have I told you Maine hiking is hard?

Don, Honey’s son (Honey and Bear own The Cabin…Bear passed away a while ago and Honey runs it now with help…she is 90 years old!!!!!) picks us up and we make a quick resupply run before getting to the hostel.

We have just enough time for showers before dinner…you can add on dinner and breakfast to your bill here…tonight is lasagana!! How did I get so lucky?????

The spread is fabulous and the hostel is packed. Hikers are busting out of every corner, but there is enough food for all, even for second helpings of the lasagna and garlic bread…and dessert of course! Brownies and Moose Tracks ice cream…how appropriate πŸ€—

I mention to Honey that the hiker Rambling Rose who I met in the 100 miles wilderness told me I couldn’t miss her hostel, and she said that he had called and offered to pay for my stay should I show up! Wowowowow, thanks Rambling Rose! What a treat, such thoughtful trail magic. I love this community ❀️.

Skywalker, a nobo hiker, puts Attack of the Clones on the TV after dinner. This looks familiar and I ask what year it came out. 2002. I went to see this movie in a theater somewhere on the trail 20 years ago. What are the chances? The magic of the trail finds me everywhere.

AT 2022 – Day 21: 16.4 (239.8 miles total)

Call me Sheet Rock.

I was introducing myself to Steve, the caretaker at the Hiker Hut outside Rangely this morning, and instead of She-ra, he heard Sheet Rock. It was so funny, and I kept laughing about it during the day that it might have to be my trail name alternate for the rest of my AT hike. Sheet Rock!! 🀣🀣🀣


The Hiker Hut made resupply super easy this morning. The shelter we camped at was less than two miles from the next highway, and a 0.3 mile walk on the road. The hostel is off-grid, so no wifi or charging electronics is available, but that makes it all the more serene, and Steve will make hikers and egg and cheese sandwich and stocks a good amount of resupply food, so we didn’t have to go into town. Thanks Steve! That saves us hikers both time and money. Granted these small resupplies at hostels are usually more expensive than a grocery market, but we are paying for the convenience, and that works for me. What we are missing is the extra meal or two we would have in town, but I don’t need it yet, the hiker hunger hasn’t reared its ugly head yet.

Our crew that left the Roadhouse together is down to Gormet, Matt (Goldfish?), and myself. We have similar paces which helps, and if we don’t hike together, we see each other frequently at breaks.

I had no set agenda for the day, but I was determined to mosey and take my time.

The walking was mellow, until it wasn’t, but most of it was easy breezy walking. At a water break we were looking ahead and saw Long Lake had a sandy beach and looked good for swimming. Fabulous! It was supposed to be 90 degrees today, but the sweat wasn’t dripping any more than usual, so I’m not sure it actually was. But I do have a favorite new audio clip…I was listening to an episode of Backpacker Radio (check out this segment they recorded with me a few years ago) and they kept opening cans of beer. The “sssss” of the can opening sent me into fits of day dreaming. I tried to manifest a cooler full of cold sodas. Where are the coolers??? The AT northbound had a cooler at every road crossing! Here I was almost 250 miles in and I had encountered one cooler. Come on Maine peeps, it’s 90 degrees out!

I arrived to Long Lake just after Gormet and Matt, stripped down to my underwater and walked in. Warmish! But lovely. It was super shallow but had a sandy bottom so I just sat down in it. The others joined in and we laughed as the waves tossed us around. Later back on the trail we all realized the waves had filled our drawers with sand. Ahhhh, that wouldn’t work well with any chaffing. Maybe Matt’s trail name should be Sandy Pants?

Then I came down out of the woods onto a highway.. what the? It hadn’t been on my radar, and when I saw a scenic pull out close by with people, I made a beeline over, intent on yogi’ing a cold soda. I walked up to the first group of people a said, “I’ll trade you a hiking story for a cold drink!” The woman said, “Of course,” and proceeded to fish two bottles of cold water out of her cooler. Ok, not bad. I took the water with many thanks, but they didn’t seem interested in the story. I turn to see Goldfish (Sandy Pants?) walking up and I gave him one of the water bottles. The cold water was so delicious, but I still had visions of the “sssss” from a cold can of rootbeer, but no matter, I was satiated for now. I chatted with a girl that looks hikerish. Waypoint had hiked a few months on the AT this spring and was now meeting up with some trail friends who had kept going while she had to get off. Waypoint gave us some sugar cookies, wow, thanks!!!



I also had a few raspberries today!

The hike down to the next river was steep…our intended camping spot for the night, and nobo after nobo passed me on the climb. I’m glad we are done climbing for the day…however we will have a humdinger of an up in the morning when we climb Bevis Mountain….but that’s a climb for another day.

I splashed off in the cold river and we made camp, eating dinner together like a little trail family.

One more story: I was somewhere in the day when a nobo approached. I usually like to say hello and ask how the hike is going…when this gentleman walked away I said, “Enjoy the rest of your hike.” He said, “oh, I haven’t been enjoying it for months!”

I’m glad I can say I’m enjoying it.

AT 2022 – Day 20: 16.9 miles (223.4 total)


The days are flying by. This sabbatical is like sand running through my hands, please don’t go too fast!!

I woke after a partial night’s sleep in the tent I had haphazardly thrown up in the trail in the middle of the night. I’m tired, but not ridiculously so.

I leave the shelter right after Gormet, we have a lofty day ahead of us with lots of climbing. Today we would cross the Saddlebacks! This has one of the largest alpine zones in Maine, the biggest ski resort, and we’d be walking on granite slabs and above treeline for almost three miles. Wowee!

But first we had to go down, way down, to go up, and then up some more. Gormet and I pass each other at breaks, and curse the bouldering over snacks. More full-body hiking, and more than a few grumbles from nobo hikers. This stuff is overwhelming.

The climb up Popular Ridge was stout, and I was stepping carefully in my chacos when some day hikers passed and commented on me wearing my sandals in such a demanding section. “It forces me to slow down and be intentional with every step,” I explained. “It really works for me.” They nodded in understanding and we kept on.

I wore my sandals though the climb up Little Saddleback too. This is where I had to regularly use my hands to “hike.” One poor nobo had a big gash on his face. We really are very close to danger out here. On one of my falls today I stabbed the sharp end of my trekking pole in my thigh…luckily it was a soft stab and I didn’t bleed…but I did have a few new scrapes on my legs that turned red. Ooofta.



Then the top! Wow, oh wait, there was one more down and up before the top, but still, it was amazing!



I’m so glad I got here on a good weather day. I spent the afternoon walking with a grin. Alpine zones are such a treat: small little plants carpet the ground, tiny little pine trees sprout through cracks in the rocks…and the rock: thick and rolling slabs of the sparkly stuff – sticky enough that you can walk on some steep angles without sliding. And the views 😍



On top of the biggest Saddleback I ran into some other sobos. Our group had caught up to the group that left the Roadhouse the day before us.



We all hobbled down the last two miles to a shelter together. Those two miles had been stretched into four by the demands of the day.

Then camp. I pitched my tent, so excited for dinner and a full night’s sleep.

Sweet dreams are made of these.

Today’s stats:

11 hours, 17 miles, 5722′ ascent, 4695 desent

AT 2022 – Day 19: 13.5 miles (206.5)

I passed 200 miles today!

I woke up early in the cozy bunk. Each of the bunks at the Roadhouse has privacy curtains, a lamp, fan, and outlet to charge devices. It’s wonderful!

I packed up before the Jenns (both owners are named Jenn) had out the breakfast spread: blueberry pancakes, cheezy potato casserole, scrambled eggs, bacon, and watermelon. Amazing.

I settled up my bill and got the requisite polaroid photo taken for the hiker wall (so many hikers have already come through this year!) and loaded up on the short bus for the ride back to the trail.



There were six of us headed south today, and we all started in a group up the first climb. I lingered in back, the cheezy potatoes were so rich that I needed to give my stomach a chance to settle.

We were a train of hikers moving through the woods.



At the first good water source we snacked and I ended up hiking out first, enjoying the solo hiking opportunity after having been around so many people. I sped ahead, my legs having thrived with the zero day rest. My back pain was all but gone too! Sterling, another mid-40s hiker and I had been talking about back pain. He’s been struggling with it too, and his doctor thinks it might be arthritis….I haven’t gone to the doctor, but as long as it calms down with rest and ibprophen I’ll chalk mine up to overuse.

By the way, not sure if you know this about me, but I don’t weigh my pack. I usually have no idea who much I am carrying. Sure, I have lightweight stuff, but I also carry luxuries like chacos, a coffee press, and pagna (see this blog post for more on my unconventional gear). At one of the previous town stops I decided to see how much I was actually carrying, and clocked in at 30lbs with three days of food and a liter of water. Not bad! Now, that doesn’t count the fanny pack…but that’s worn weight. On the front of my body. That only matters to my knees. 😁

Back to the hike. I take a break on a jumbled rock pile, eating some cold pizza (my favorite food to pack out after town). I had a good view over to Sugarloaf Mountain and all the ski runs. Sure, I’d come back and ski it.



After that the going got steep, probably because Gormet and I had been talking about how easy and gentle the terrain had been so far. 😡

I slowly picked my way down to a river where a few of us lunched (we were bunched up again….which can be fun too). Matt offered everyone goldfish…he’s trying on Goldfish as a trail name, but it doesn’t quite fit.

After a quick river crossing we run into another trail crew. They are playing in the mud….setting rocks so we wouldn’t have to. I whispered “Thank you” to one crew member as I walked on by.

Up. Time to go up, and the up was bouldery. This was another of those full-contact climbs, but I think the climbs up are better than the climbs down…



I passed a 0.5 side trail to the summit of Sugarloaf, but opted to skip the extra mile of hiking. Thunder was beginning to rumble, and my goal was the next shelter before the rain fell.

Another rocky descent brought me to the Spaulding Mountain lean-to. I arrived first and claimed a spot. Before long several northbounders and my sobo peeps arrived and we were stuffed in there like sardines. Hmmm, I don’t know about this…

By nightfall all were quiet, but eight people in the shelter will make some noise. The crinkle of air mattresses and inflatable pillows was a symphony of awake. I couldn’t get comfortable smashed up against one of the walls, so finally in the depths of the night eased myself out of the melee and clumsily set up my tent. The rain had passed, along with some loud thunder. I made my own symphony of annoying in setting up the tent. When I finally went horizontal there was sleep.

AT 2022 ‐ Day 18: 0 miles (193 total)

My battered body needs a rest day, and I think I can get it today.

This is a new hostel (opened last year) and there are lots of places I can tuck myself into and chill. 

After a huge breakfast of waffles, eggs, potatoes, fruit, and bacon (!!!!!) I went outside to swing in a hammock and call my folks. It is hot and humid where they live in Lousiana, and as it so happens I met two other hikers from Lousiana this morning! That doesn’t happen very often. The states are well represented out here. I’ve met folks from Tennessee, Arizona, Alabama, Illinois, Washington, DC, Florida… it is a real slice of humanity on the AT, and stepping into the stream of hikers will immerse you in wildly different interactions from one day to the next. I love it.

I love it so much that I talked my good friend Carrie into trying out an AT hike this year. Carrie and I went to high-school and college together and she moved to Bend a few years ago. I’ve been going on and on about backpacking for so long, that when she had some time this year she decided to give it a go. She hopped on at Harper’s Ferry going north with the intention of staying on for 2-4 weeks. It has now been 2 months and she is approaching 500 miles! And she met a delightful hiker named No. 2 Pencil who has been chronicling their adventures on his You Tube Channel. Check out this interview he did with her recently.Β 

In fact, even if Carrie gets off soon, she will hang out along the trail for a bit and when my path sobo crosses No. 2’s path going nobo, we are all going to take a day off together πŸ€—.

The rest of the day I watch movies, read, chat, and eat. I don’t have to leave the hostel to resupply because they have a stock of hiker food we can buy, so nice!

A found a Sharpie to make some improvements to my tyvek ground cloth
This can help tremendously with getting a hitch

All of this reminds me of hanging out at the US Embassy rec center when I was a peace corps volunteer in Burkina Faso. We would hunker down for a whole day, watching movie after movie, eating good food and playing games. I hadn’t thought about those days in a long time, but this hostel reminds me…so many memories!

I snack on cold pizza, cheese, crackers and other delights with Hero for dinner, and then there is cake! It is Jenn’s (one of the owners) birthday today along with two other hikers, and there is cake and ice cream for all. Yes!

I slip away while it is still light out to lay down.

Sleep is a very important part of a rest day.

AT 2022 – Day 17: 10.7 miles (193 total)

It’s Kirk’s birthday! I will celebrate by climbing some mountains and not eating cake (I sure hope he eats some cake though).

Ok wet rain soaked trail and rocks…what will you bring me? 

It rained alllllllll night. I didn’t stir super early and emerged when the deluge started to slow down. Three tents had appeared since I tucked myself in last night, and all the occupants seem wet and tired from the ordeal too.

I was the first one out of camp, and wasn’t sure how treacherous the going would be up the two high peaks today. The hike up was your typical rock and root gauntlet, and then I entered a cloud. It wasn’t worth checking out the many view points along the way, there were no views today. 

When I got to treeline my knees started to shake. The wind was howling…like mach force wind howls and I worried about getting blown off the mountain. It was ripping, and I took my first few steps out and felt pushed over by the velocity, so got into a crouch and hobbled my way up and over the exposed summit parts as close to the ground as I could get….sometimes crawling. Thank goodness I weigh alot! I am super nervous, but my mass successfully holds me to the ground. Ok, first one done, now to the next.

I climb up to the second peak. Thankfully this one has less exposure overall, so I’m up and over that one using the same technique. Into the trees and I give a big sigh of relief. I find Trout Lily waiting to go up, unsure of the safety of it all. I share some tips and comment that her pack cover might act like a giant sail in the wind….that could be really scary. 

My phone stayed in the pocket for most of this.

Ok, time to go down, but the downs out here always involve some ups too. Go figure. My legs are burnt, but I keep going.

I look down and notice a slug on my leg. I’m glad the woodland creatures think I’m one of them, but the slug has to go.

Why do they think it’s OK to call this trail? The acrobatics contine most of the steep way down the mountain. This is ridiculous. 

I finally put on some music to keep the moral up and Annie Lenox’s song “Why” was playing when I was bouldering down vertical waterfalls. Why indeed?

Finally the trail flattened out and the sun appeared. Thanks sun.

Then the road! I cross to the other side and see a man waving me over. Trail magic? Trail magic!!!!! Bourbon Batman has a trunk full of coolers and snacks. It’s my first legit trail magic of the trip! I grab a PBR and some oreos and revel in the luxury. My shuttle ride shows up a short while later….I’m staying at the Maine Roadhouse tonight (and maybe tomorrow night too). My body is beaten: knees screaming, back sore, shoulders tight. It’s time for a rest. All of southern Maine is as rugged as the past few days and I need to mentally and physically prepare myself in the comfort of a cozy hostel.

Jenn picks me up and soon I am showered and wandering around her beautiful place.

The rest of the afternoon/evening involved showers and laundry, burgers and beer, meeting new hikers (Gormet…from Oregon!) And seeing old (Hero pulled in just at dark).

I talk to Kirk and find there is no cake, so I’ll just have to make one when I get home in September.

Not walking tomorrow will be devine.

AT 2022 – Day 16: 16.7 miles (182.3 total miles)

I can feel my legs coming in.

My speed this morning was helped by the rolling flat terrain. At morning break I came to a stream and met a bunch of new hikers. More sobos! They seem like a fun bunch and I flip flopped with them most of the morning.

The build up to the day are the Bigalow Mountains. One of the peaks is named Bigelow Avery for the man who had the idea for the Appalachian Trail. It’s rumored to be a very difficult range.

And it is!

The approach up Little Bigelow was deceiving.

I had stopped for lunch and a cool down at the lean-to on Little Bigalow, and the trail had been gentle and well-graded. At the time, I had been thinking of going to a campsite between the highest peaks, but I was also keeping my eye on the weather. Heavy rain and thunderstorms were due to start this afternoon. Climbing a steep difficult mountain over 4,000′ in the rain at the end a 15-mile day might not be a good idea. (It never is)

From the shelter I go up, but the trail is short and easy (relatively speaking! I’m comparing to Katadhin here…) to the top of Little Bigelow. So short and easy that I let my guard down and shifted mindsets. Too soon. #^$ got real.



I had already decided to stop at the bottom of Little Bigelow where there were some campsites 0.3 off the trail. I had turned on the computer to check the weather and it was coming in sooner than expected. Ok, quick check of the elevation profile (down) and I went into end-of-day-chill mode.



Just a nice meander through the trees to camp, right?

Wrong.



Welcome to full body hiking. It was an acrobatic descent, and I suddenly realized that I was EXHAUSTED.

Steeps so steep you had to throw the poles aside and lower yourself down. Steps so high that you weren’t sure how short hikers managed. And all of this would be extra terrible in the rain. Yikes!

I kept picking away at the boulder problems ahead of me and at one point switched to my chacos because my left little toe was screaming at me (the only one with a blister….kind of proud about that).

I wasn’t there yet, but the rain wasn’t either.

“Step by step. That’s all you can do. One step at a time. Don’t get lazy.”

I repeated my mantras to myself again and again and the legs got more and more stumbly.

Finally the campsite sign. 0.3 off trail. Uggg! The trail in was like a secret handshake: complicated. It involved caves and more moves than I had left.

I peeked around, there weren’t a ton of options. I chose a wooden tent platform thinking that if it did rain alot that I wouldn’t be stuck in a puddle. I set the tent up before it really started coming down and made my nest.

The only thing that sucked though was when it did start raining, the water splashed off the platform and into my tent. Still wet…but not soaking.

Then my back did a little twinge and I got real worried about it. Just what I need! But I can’t focus on that yet. It was 10 miles to town where I could dry out and probably take a zero day (my back!), but it was over the most demanding climb to date since the big K, and it was going to be wet and rainy.

Oh man.

AT 2022 – Day 15: 10.4 miles (165.6 miles total)

Some teenage boys were making a racket into the early hours last night. Kids!

I still felt rested when my body gave me the early morning wake up call, and I took advantage of the showers to scrub another layer of funk off.

The plan was breakfast, hitch to resupply, and then hitch to the trail. Over blueberry pancakes Hero suggested seeing if the Sterling Inn down the road could give us a ride (the have shuttles for guests) and once we saw they offered a full resupply too, I called and made the arrangements. We had 45 minutes to eat. Pack up camp and be back at the lodge for the van. Ok, go time!

And we made it with minutes to spare. Resuppy options at the Sterling Inn were perfect….some of these little hostels or hotels will create micro stores for hikers with everything they might need. It’s a win win. The hostel makes a lot more money off hikers who stay there and keep remembering things they need (or want). The hikers don’t have to hitch or move. These places also often feed you things like mass quantities of pancakes (I missed that feast at Shaws in Monson).

Then, the trail. We rode with Puddle Duck (one of the hikers I had been hiking around during the past week). She had gone into the Sterling Inn to resupply while Owl and their dog Smokey waited on the trail.

Then, ferry time! Fording the Kennebec River can be dangerous because un-timed dam releases upstream will unleash torrents that can raise the river 2-4 feet instantly. Hikers have died trying to cross, so there is a canoe ferry for hikers to get across in a sanctioned “aqua blaze.”

Hero and I loaded packs into a canoe, our oresman was a boater dude who mostly works as a raft guide in the summer and liftie at Sugarloaf Ski Area in the winter. We talked Oregon rivers as he paddled us across. I tipped him some PBR money when we got out, and he said it would probably be Modelo money instead (Modelo beer is better when warm).

The hiking was good. We followed a series of waterfalls up and when on top, ran into Bob, the trail maintainer for this section. We were near Harrison’s Pierce Pond Camp…which offers hikers lemonade during the day and some of those AT pancakes in the morning. A shelter on Pierce Pond (appropriately named Pierce Pond Shelter) was the ideal spot for hikers to camp at night, and then walk over for breakfast in the morning.

Bob took us up to the lodge, which offers cabin rentals…I want to come back!…for a look at the place. It was a rustic log cabin with the feel of history. We sipped ice water and got a tour of the place. The windows overlooked the bridge we had just walked over, and upstream, a waterfall. Just about as idelic as they come. The porch hung high off the forest floor and hummingbirds flitted about in the trees and flowers. Ahhhhh.

It was not a surprise when Hero said he wanted to camp here and eat pancakes in the morning. He actually said that later after we got to the shelter and he had gone swimming in the beautiful lake… I was eating my cold pizza at the time. I wanted to carry on, so we said our goodbyes. We will surely see each other again down the trail, for that is the way of the trail.

I lumbered through the forest, wearing my chacos again. They just feel so good and I like having my feet out.



I crossed paths with another new hiker, a retired nurse from Tennessee who was finally able to take the time for a long hike. She was hiking solo and I enjoyed talking with her as we continued to leap frong each other. (She stops for a break, I pass her. I stop for a break, she passes me, and so on).

I caught back up to her (completely spacing her trail name right now), and we walked along the shore of another pond (really the size of a lake). We talk and she finds a campsite, so decides to stop. I carry on and pass Puddle Duck, Owl and Smoky making camp, say my hellos, and keep going. When the trail turns into the forest I decide to try and find a spot too. There is a lake and views!



And then I am reminded that this is the land of the leech. I watch them poke around in the rocks after I took a carefree dip in the pond. Shudder. Hero and I googled leeches last night on wifi…they have sharp teeth and will drink from mammals, fish, birds, and even other leeches. Akkkkk!

Dinner is ramen.